Orinda cyclist back in saddle for charitable ride
By Lou Fancher
Some people just love pain — and giving back.
One year after Rick Perez deliberately suffered 100-plus degree temperatures, daily dehydration, sore muscles, injured ribs from a fall and other expected indignities of a 3,200-mile cross-country journey, he’s back in the saddle.
This time, a northern route has the 70-year-old bicyclist leaving his home in Orinda to climb mountains in Oregon, Wyoming, Vermont and other states while traveling 3,600 miles from Astoria, Ore. to Portsmouth, N.H. on his Formigli One bike.
The effort is inspired by Laura Barton, a Bay Area resident and friend of Perez who succumbed to breast cancer in 2015. Money raised by the ride will go — as it did in 2016 — to the Lazarex Cancer Foundation.
The Danville-based charitable nonprofit supports FDA breast cancer clinical trials and research with 100 percent of the donations used to support people with advanced stage cancer. In 2016, Perez and fellow biker Nick Bloisa raised approximately $22,000. Perez is making this year’s trip, dubbed “Laura’s Ride North,” solo.
“I’m going by myself because there’s nobody else
to do it with,” says Perez. On the eve of his departure, there’s unease, but it’s fleeting.
“Sure, there’s some apprehension. But last year, there were days where we rode separately because I was generally faster. At the end, we rode together and drafted on each other. I’ll miss that.”
Of course, he won’t be exactly alone: drivers Sandi Eng and Alejandra Garcia Aragon will accompany Perez, providing water and food, transporting equipment, pre-checking into hotels and blogging daily on social media.
Eng is Perez’s life partner and suggested last year’s ride to honor Barton’s memory. In 2016, Aragon responded to an ad posted by Perez and Bloisa. She joined them from her home in Mexico where she works as a psychologist for a nonprofit association.
“I asked her again.” says Perez. “Once the logistics were figured out, she was all in.”
And there are the strangers met on the road.
“One of the thoughts I remember from last time was a message I’d like to have posted to every driver. It would have been a big “thank you.” Overwhelmingly, drivers were considerate. It was gratifying.”
Perez will average about 80 miles per day, covering on the heaviest days close to 120 miles. Although he says he felt 10 years older immediately after last year’s ride, he’ll be cruising on the fumes of achievement he appreciates one year later.
“There was satisfaction after the ride from people saying how great it was to support the foundation,” he says. “That’s part of the motivation. This year, hearing I’m going again, more than one person said, ‘Congratulations!’ before they said, ‘Are you crazy?’ And then, there’s the personal challenge. I look forward to knowing I did the mountains.”
Like last year, Perez is paying his expenses for the ride — about $14,000 — so all donations will benefit people with cancer.
“I made a good contribution last time,” he says, downplaying the generosity in the same way his mind has minimized the physical suffering.
Perez says his 2017 training regime is largely the same — three days a week at high speeds with hill climbing. But his approach to nutrition and hydration during the northern trek will be slightly different.
“I’m hoping I won’t drink as much lemonade as I did last year. I finished without losing any weight. I had three refills every dinner and I know I had a lot of sugar.”
And Perez has named this year’s ride carefully, from the perspective of foresight.
“I called it Laura’s Ride North, not Laura’s Ride 2017, because that might suggest there’ll be a 2018 ride and I don’t think so,” he cautions.
But then again, there’s that pain-erasing effect of time — and the overriding compulsion people like Perez and his supporters feel, year after year, to give back.